Are You Holding Your Daughter Back?

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Is your little girl just pretty or pretty brilliant?

A thought-provoking new ad from Verizon depicts how seemingly harmless comments like “Don’t get your dress dirty,” “Who’s my pretty girl?” and “Why don’t you hand that to your brother?” eventually stifle a young girl’s interest in science. Here it is:

In case you didn’t watch it, the video brings attention to a startling statistic: 66 percent of fourth-grade girls say they like science and math, but only 18 percent of all college engineering majors are female.

The commercial suggests that social cues and subtle comments are discouraging girls from getting involved in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. Verizon’s ad, in partnership with Makers.com and the Verizon Foundation, is part of its “Inspire Her Mind” campaign.

Rather than focusing on body issues and beauty, Verizon’s ad touches on something different. Amanda Marcotte writes in Slate:

This video tackles a much more insidious force holding girls back: the general pressure on them to be, for lack of a better term, more ladylike. It points out how we not only value beauty, but also prioritize neatness, quiet, and safety in girls while encouraging risk-taking and confidence in boys.

This commercial made me tear up. I have a 4-year-old daughter. I’m guilty of stopping her from exploring along the edge of a lake or climbing up a hill of rocks because I don’t want her to come back muddy or hurt.

It’s a great reminder that all children are natural explorers. I need to let my children’s intellectual curiosity roam and to encourage them. It’s easy to forget sometimes the profound impact our attitudes and what we say have in shaping our kids.

Who knows? My pretty little girl may be a budding scientist.

What do you think about Verizon’s new ad? Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page.

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Comments & discussion

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  • Brenda

    Interesting, my parents didn’t care where I was or what I was doing (benign neglect. I became a scientist.

  • Old Highland Guy

    I couldn’t have disagreed more with this article. My wife and her sisters were all workers from the age of 5. They worked in the fields, picking up potatoes, picking cotton, picking grapes, and they were dirty, adventursome, explored everything in site and never tired of playing just like any of the boys. None of them got past an AA in a local community college and all became either secretaries, clerks, teaches aides. They are all very intelligent and still work hard even though they are all past or near 70 years old. Even though they played like the boys, explored like the boys, got as dirty as the boys, they never chose to go into any of the sciences nor go for any graduate degrees. The only thing my wife has ever done that could even come remotely close to be a science/engineering/math, is ham radio.
    I think this article was a bit ridiculous, that is just my opinion for what it’s worth.

    • Gnosiophobic

      It doesn’t say that allowing them to get dirty, explore, etc. guarantees that they will seek STEM professions. It says that discouraging from exploring and subtly reminding them what society believes is feminine will discourage them from seeking STEM profs.

  • shondell mann

    A child’s eye is the window to their soul, they would do better by observing a good example rather than just talk.

  • Y2KJillian

    After 13 years’ of “mandatory” straight As (yup, K-12), (As or spankings!) and the constant refrain from my mother that I ought to be “a brain surgeon,” when I was a senior in HS I learned that 1. my dad had set aside $4,000 for my college, 2. my mother was screamingly furious because I had a boyfriend and she wanted me to “drop out and be poor!” 3. My father said NO to any possible college major I wanted, 4. Instead, he urged me to become a secretary so I could “always get a job and 5. I finally gave in after one hellish screaming session from “mom,” quit college I had just signed up for, and my mother showed up the next month with a $4,000 mink coat after I moved out into a clerk’s job. It’s been a long struggle off and on as a clerk/secretary/receptionist–then hobby pug breeder, information officer at the local humane society, and now retired with husband. Parents’ words and actions really do make a difference. If they’re CRAZY, it can make a worse difference!
    Jillian